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The Baltimore Experience > Public School 103 > November 2013 Planning Charrette

In 2008, the City of Baltimore embarked on a project to rehabilitate Public School 103 (PS103), also known as the Henry Highland Garnet School. Built in 1877, the former school is most well known as the elementary school of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. The heritage area has been an active participant in the preservation of this building. The ultimate goal is to use the school as a place to share the story of Thurgood Marshall with the public.

In recognition of the school’s importance to Marshall and the Old West Baltimore community, the Mayor’s Commission on Former PS103 was established in 2008 to chart a course for the future of the school building. The PS103 Commission, with assistance from the heritage area, oversaw the development of a long-range plan for PS103 (completed in 2010). Over the past few years, the heritage area has worked with the city’s Department of General Services to undertake preservation measures to ensure the integrity of the building. The building has been weatherproofed; a breathable envelope is in place so that the building will not suffer further deterioration. In July 2013, the heritage area voiced to the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation and the Planning Commission its strong support the building’s nomination as a city landmark.

In 2011, funds became available from the Northeast Regional Office of the National Park Service to explore designating PS103 as a National Historic Landmark. On September 30, 2013, a charrette (planning session) was held to develop a general consensus on the best path forward among community, state, and federal stakeholders. The charrette also provided an opportunity to consider the larger community and thematic context for PS103.

The meeting participants explored a variety of topics related to Marshall’s life and the opportunity to use PS103 as a center for public history and interpretation. Several recommendations supported by community stakeholders and members of the Mayoral commission emerged from the discussion. The recommendations task the heritage area to –

  • Continue working with the National Park Service to pursue designation as a National Historic Landmark. The foundation for designation should include a context study to determine what properties associated with Marshall’s life still exist as well as other Civil Rights landmarks throughout the nation;
  • Collaborate with the City of Baltimore and Baltimore Development Corporation to pursue further rehabilitation of the building and seek an appropriate tenant; and
  • Begin interpreting the building though exterior signage and online media.

The heritage area will continue to work with the community and the City of Baltimore to ensure that PS103 will be a center for honoring and commemorating the life and work of Thurgood Marshall and the other Civil Rights heroes that called Old West Baltimore home.


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